Growing up in Rockford, Illinois, John attended Rockford East H.S. and played on their basketball and tennis teams. He entered Beloit College in 1945 and went on to win varsity letters all four years in basketball and tennis. Captain of the basketball team, he was selected to the All-Conference and Little All-American teams. He also participated on three Midwest Conference tennis championship teams.
Graduating in 1949, John began his coaching career in Wisconsin at Stevens Point H.S. and then moved on to Beloit H.S. Both schools advanced to the state play-offs during his tenure. In 1953, he was drafted and served two years in the U.S. Army. After an honorable discharge in 1955, he was hired by Lake Forest College to coach their basketball and tennis teams. It was at Lake Forest that he met his wife Polly, a member of the physical education staff.
In 1958, John accepted the head basketball position at the University of Wisconsin. He was appointed General Manager of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1968 and within three years the Bucks were NBA Champions. After resigning his position with Milwaukee, he ran for the U.S. Senate. Following his loss to the incumbent, John was appointed President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a position he held for 15 years.
In 1988, John accepted a position with the Big Eight Conference as Director of Basketball and, in 1991, was promoted to Assistant Commissioner. Having served on many civic, state, and national boards and committees, he is a recipient of numerous professional awards and honors, which include membership in three other Halls of Fame.